EARLY REPORTS suggest that Switzerland’s ambitious Bahn 2000 programme with its nationwide interconnecting timetable has led to a 10% increase in passenger traffic on main line services. While this still awaits formal confirmation, it is clear that Swiss Federal Railways was already well placed to make progress even before the Bahn 2000 timetable went live last December.

Last year’s performance on the 2931 route-km network showed an improving trend, with the number of passengers reaching 253·4 million and passenger-km up by over 2%. Tonne-km rose by 1·8% to 10117 million, helping to cut SBB Cargo’s losses to SFr2·8m from SFr33·1m in 2003. In SBB’s sixth year as a limited company, productivity improved while the grants received for infrastructure maintenance and for operation of socially-necessary services were down for the sixth successive year.

SBB Cargo operates in an increasingly competitive environment, with rival BLS Cargo now regularly using the Gotthard main line (p261). About 3% of train-km on the SBB network were operated by competitors, with 28 different companies using its tracks. Revenue from sale of paths was used to generate a bonus for operators hauling low-noise wagons.

Speaking at a presentation of last year’s results on April 12, SBB Chief Executive Dr Benedikt Weibel described 2004 as ’an unforgettable and historic year’ that culminated in a trouble-free transition to the new timetable. The number of passengers using SBB’s seven largest stations has since risen by 10%, while opening of the Mattstetten - Rothrist new line has led to an increase in the number of passengers using non-stop services in the Bern - Zürich corridor of ’more than 12%’. Despite exceptionally severe winter conditions early this year, the new timetable had proved robust - one of three conditions that Weibel cited as essential for operating success. The other two were minimal disruption and efficient management of disruption, he said.

  • Weibel, who is the current President of the UIC, has overseen implementation of the Bahn 2000 programme since his appointment as SBB’s Chief Executive in 1993. He is one of several leading speakers at our Centenary Congress being held on London on July 1, and we invite all readers who wish to hear the Bahn 2000 success story at first hand to join us on that date. Details of the event are on p258.